"At first, everything was going great. I was happy, my needs were being met, and everything was going smoothly. I couldn't have asked for more! But lately, things haven't been going so well. I don't feel like my needs are being met anymore, things aren't going the way I want them to go, and I have to admit, I've been mighty tempted to look elsewhere. I'm just sure someone else can meet my needs better. I know I made a commitment, but now I'm thinking that maybe it's time to give up on this and walk away."
If someone said this regarding their marriage, they would probably be encouraged to work things out. Every marriage goes through rough times occasionally, and these times are opportunities for growth. The couple could talk through things honestly, figure out what isn't working, and work together to move in a healthier direction.
Over the past couple of years, I've come to realize how many similarities there are between committing to a marriage and committing to a church community.
When you're trying to find the right church community, you do look around. But eventually, you are hopefully able to settle into a place that feels right. You're on board with the church's vision, you're getting involved and building relationships, and you're growing closer to God. But communities, just like marriages, go through hard times occasionally, and you may begin to feel less happy with the situation. Maybe you don't feel that your needs are being met anymore, or maybe you don't like how things are going. At that point, it can be tempting to walk away.
But should you walk away?
Now, I know the analogy breaks down. Sometimes, even when you've made a commitment to a church, things in the church change so drastically that it really is best to move on, or you've tried your hardest to make changes and it just isn't happening. I'm not talking about situations like that, though. I'm talking about the general hard times, the times where you don't feel like your needs are being met or you don't like how something is going.
Personally, I feel that if I've made a commitment to a church community, I am with them through thick and thin, and I'm not going anywhere unless I've done everything I can to make it work. Of course, that doesn't mean concerns should be ignored. Just as you would in a marriage, I think it's vital to talk it out within the community and be honest about what's working and what isn't, and then move forward together to try to get to a healthier place for everyone. This obviously implies that the community is honest enough to talk about things that aren't working and that the community is open to change if needed.
What do you think? Have you ever found a church that you feel you could commit to through thick and thin? Or are you still looking? If you're still searching for the right fit, I hope you find it. And once you find it, I hope you will commit to it and do everything you can to make it work. And I hope that within the church as a whole, we can move away from the consumer mindset that asks, "What can the church do for me?" and instead move toward a mindset that asks, "How can I contribute positively to this community?"